In lieu of the expected list of New Year's resolutions to lose weight, save money/spend less money, or finally writing that screenplay, I'm focusing on attitude.
I think we have become an exceedingly anxious culture. We see doom and threat everywhere -- in our food, in our realtionships, and in our political leaders. Every event is fraught with neurotic significance. I think this is, in part, fueled by our immersion in the online world (of which I consider myself a passionate devotee)
Every crime, every tragedy, every mistake is magnified and repeated and commented upon at an exponential rate. And much of our discussion around it is a swarm of chest beating, tough talk, and posturing. We complain that our leaders fuel this fire, but they are only giving us what we want.
Its almost like our anxious psyches mirror the increase in allergies observed over the last twenty years. One theory posits that because we have become so "clean" via antibiotics, our immune systems are hypersensitive to a wider range of "foreign invaders"
Perhaps this is happening to our spirits as well. Perhaps we have become so fat, warm and secure that our sense of living is hypersensitive to the new, the different, and the unusual that "invade" our minds.
One of the most important books in my life is Moby-Dick. I was forced to read it for an honors English class in High School and write a report on it. I hated every minute of it, not only trudging through its dense 19th century prose, but the hours I had to spend at nearby Lafayette College library reading books talking about its allegory, symbolism, and literary significance.
Since entering adulthood, I have re-read it (in part and in whole) at least ten times. In retrospect, it served as my primary "religious" text before I eventually picked a more established religious practice.
It is, I think, a core American spiritual text.
As a result, I think Ishmael's quote above is an apt statement to kick off the new year.
I always liked the mystery behind the first sentence of Moby-DIck. It suggests "Ishmael" is defining himself anew (he does not say "I am Ishmael").
There is nothing so essentially American as making a fresh start and plunging into a new adventure in hope of new and better things to come.
So, like Ishmael, let's all take our restlessness, nervousness, and anxiety, and, instead of stewing in it, find a ship bound to voyage, gather a sturdy crew, and head out to sea.